As working moms, we’ve spent a good part of our adulthood checking all the right boxes. From the time we graduated from school, most of us had a mental checklist of things we needed to do: move up the career ladder, get married, buy a house, squeeze out 2.5 kids and try desperately not to screw up parenting of said 2.5 kids.
We all have our own lists, and they may be in different order, but essentially we all have checked boxes that act as our life’s mile markers, letting us know if we on or off track. Of course, once you check a box then it’s a whole different level of work and commitment to keep that box checked. I always giggle when I see a young woman who feels like getting married is crossing the finish line. The mean girl in me always wants to tell her she is, in fact, just at the beginning of an ultra-marathon. In Death Valley. But why spoil the fun?
So with all this energy going towards checking boxes and keeping them checked, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of the box marked “me.” The “me” box is the part of you that is a little reckless. It’s the part of you that colors outside the lines. It is selfish because it is just about making you feel good. The “me” box doesn’t concern itself with keeping up appearances. It flies in the face of every other box you’ve checked while adulting. It is both super fun and super scary. Which means it’s really hard to justify making time or spending energy on it. Unless you legitimize it somehow. Unless you put some structure around it. And what better way to do both than make it your side gig?
I’ve been at my side gig since 2012. That’s when I published my book, The Working Mommy’s Manual, and started blogging. The writer in me is the more open, more outspoken, braver version of me. By day I am a respectable financial advisor, but by night I am a trash-talking blogger with no boundaries. And while I love my side gig, I was put to shame by two other moms I met recently who have way more badass side gigs. One of them performs as a back-up dancer for a local cover band—complete with hot pants, fishnet stockings and white go-go boots. If that isn’t the most fearless way to embrace your sexy, fun self, I don’t know what is. In her adult life this woman also works in the financial services industry, has two kids, a lovely husband and lives in a nice town in Southern California. She has a lot of her grown-up boxes checked. But her side gig gives her something that is all her own. The dancing keeps her healthy, gives her a sisterhood with the other dancers, allows her to be creative and reminds her she is still young and alive.
While getting up onstage and dancing with the band is brave, my other friend’s side gig is so badass, I thought I’d misheard her: She is on a roller-derby team. I didn’t even know that was a thing! In fact, if I had known this was an option, I might never have started blogging. This petite dynamo looks just like every mom you see at back-to-school night. She doesn’t have neck tattoos, body piercings or bright blue hair. Which is why I thought I had misheard her. She and her badass sisterhood of teammates compete against other teams and even have their own world summit called RollerCon that took place in Vegas this year. And yes, it’s as physically challenging as you imagine it would be.
Women with side gigs love our children, husbands, careers, friends and family. It’s just that we still want to have that little piece of us that is all our own. We realized it’s OK to give ourselves permission to be unexpected and embrace the weird, wild parts of ourselves. It’s appropriate and healthy to give an outlet to the rule-breaking parts of ourselves. Not because we are selfish. But because our wild side gigs make us better in every other part of our life—and help us keep all of our other boxes checked.